Last week’s Transit Means Business Conference in Phoenix was well attended by transit geeks, politicians and METRO staff.
If you have an interest in transit, I would strongly recommend that you connect with Friends of Transit and get on their mailing list.
Speaking at the conference were:
Yvonne Hunter: Board Chair, Friends of Transit, addressed how and why transit is important to business.
Eric Emmert: Dorn Policy Group, spoke about how the current transit system evolved and shared about current transit issues in Arizona. Eric is very knowledgeable about how business and transportation issues combine in economically positive ways. Obviously, transit is important to business.
Don Keuth: Phoenix Community Alliance, also spoke of some of the challenges and issues facing transit today, as well as the future of how business and transit can effectively move forward in the coming years.
The conference was not just about the success of the Phoenix light rail system, it was an opportunity to learn about past, present and future transportation in Arizona. To me, it’s always interesting to hear the complexities of an effective transportation system. The multiple agencies involved, multiple funding sources ( local, regional, state, federal etc. ), and the seemingly endless amount of red tape, regulations, and posturing that goes into the process. It still cracks me up that people think the light rail system was the cause of the 2009 fare increase.
As far as the future of transportation needs in the valley, Don spoke of the next couple of decades and of the millions of people that will be living in Arizona. Said Keuth, “we don’t need more luxury condos.” In fact, there will be a need for infill developments in great locations where people can live closer to transportation systems instead of having an automobile as their only option. Adding millions of cars to our freeway system probably isn’t the only way to grow our economy…
Expanding Or Not?
The Mesa light rail extension and the Tempe Streetcar project have both been talked about a lot in transit circles, and both projects appear to be moving forward as well as can be expected. Back in February we learned that Mesa is recommended to receive $38 million in fiscal year 2012, and that METRO is requesting $72 million from the FTA for Central Mesa. In Tempe, we hear that more streetcar information will soon be available about future stations, operations, and more. One would assume they are fairly confident in their funding sources.
Will Funding Be There?
We heard talk of public / private partnerships during the Friends of Transit conference, and basically agreed that it is always difficult to find someone to write a check for the costs involved. Others have studied public / private promises and pitfalls and would probably agree that there is no easy answer.
This morning we are hearing more about possible challenges to current funding sources for our light rail extensions.
From today’s AZCentral report by Sean Holstege:
“Mesa has been promised, but has not received, half of the $70 million in federal transit grants it needs for a downtown light-rail extension. Tempe will apply for discretionary grants later this year for a streetcar.
And Phoenix has some, but not all, of the federal money it needs to study a light-rail line to south Phoenix.
All these requests could be cut, eliminated or delayed.”
More decisions are sure to come in the months ahead. We have been told that light rail extensions planned in the east valley are moving forward, but most people realize these promises were not written in stone. We seem to be constantly reminded of the chicken and the egg comparisons of what comes first, effective transportation systems or economic development.
Yes, we still hear that there has been $7 BILLION dollars in economic development along the line. But, who’s countin’?